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Had breast reduction surgery done. Feeling pain, burning and rawness in elbows. Should I go for emergency room?

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Internal Medicine Specialist
Practicing since : 2000
Answered : 1417 Questions
I had breast reduction surgery 4 months ago. Since then I have been unable to rest my elbows on anything - even putting them on my mattress is painful. Feels like they are both burning and raw and if they touch anything- the pain, burning and rawness are worse. When I lift anything, the pain, which is on my elbows all the time, SHOOTS into my upper forearm and down to my hand. It's very sharp and painful. I do not have numbness in my fingers, although sometimes my one arm gets numb and somehow that is painful. I have been dropping things, very unexpectedly but that symptom seems to be getting betteror maybe I'm trying harder.
I was in the sun and that heat made it feel worse. Sometimes feels like sharp glass in my elbows.
My GP quickly said it's probably a neuropathy and may or may not go away. He was in a hurry and that's all I got from him.
Posted Wed, 22 Aug 2012 in Women's Health
Answered by Dr. Sudhir 3 hours later

Thanks for the question.

Your symptoms are simulating peripheral neuropathy.Other thing which can present like this is cervical inter-vertebral disc causing pinched nerve .Peripheral neuropathy often causes numbness and pain in your hands and feet. People typically describe the pain of peripheral neuropathy as tingling or burning, and loss of sensation .Peripheral neuropathy is caused by nerve damage. It can result from such problems as traumatic injuries, infections, metabolic problems, medications and exposure to toxins.

In many cases, peripheral neuropathy symptoms improve with time - especially if it's caused by an underlying condition that can be treated.

I think you should consider seeing a neurologist, who on clinical examination can confirm the diagnosis. The doctor may want you to do tests like blood sugar levels, thyroid function tests, liver/kidney function tests. A nerve conduction study can also be of great help. Treatment is usually directed towards the underlying cause.

Please ask if I have left any of your query unanswered or if there are any doubts.


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Follow-up: Had breast reduction surgery done. Feeling pain, burning and rawness in elbows. Should I go for emergency room? 9 hours later
Are you aware that I said I did not have any numbness in my hands or feet?
I'm wondering about nerve compression/entrapment or cubital tunnel syndrome?

I was placed in a position with both arms extending for over 3 hours according to my surgeon.
Answered by Dr. Sudhir 21 minutes later
Yes, I am aware of that.Numbness might not be present in all cases.Peripherally neuropathy can present with spectrum of symptoms and not all symptoms are present in every case.

Pinched nerves like in nerve compression/entrapment or cubital tunnel syndrome can also be cause of peripheral neuropathy. Again with pinched nerves I would expect numbness as more likely symptoms.So current symptoms are not even specific for these conditions.

Peripheral neuropathy is broader term to cover all these conditions.

This is the reason I have suggested list of investigations. Of this you can consider getting nerve conduction study done first.

Being in position with outstretched arms should cause symptoms for few days.But since it has been going for about 4 months now, I think you should get this investigated and consider other possibilities as well.

Hope this answers your question.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Had breast reduction surgery done. Feeling pain, burning and rawness in elbows. Should I go for emergency room? 1 hour later
One last question and thank you. I will follow-up with a neurologist.

Last night I was reading about cubital tunnel syndrome and the article suggested I straighten my arms as much as possible. So I did and the relief was immediate. It's not total relief and the top of my elbow area still burns but there is definite relief. Last clue, I have absolutely no strength. Even picking up a mixing bowl is almost impossible. It hurts way too much - sharp, shooting pain and weakness.

You might have hit on something - my blood sugar has been low- had tests before the surgery - one was 49 and one was 70.
I was pleased so far with your response and will say so on the close discussion part.
First time I have utilized this service. Thank you again.
Answered by Dr. Sudhir 11 hours later
Thanks for follow up question.I would be happy to help you further.

It still can be a cubital tunnel syndrome, but the burning sensation makes me think more of progression of this entrapment to peripheral neuropathy rather than just entrapment.

A like this, all investigations should be undertaken.As there can be two or more factors contributing to this.Like there was some ongoing asymptomatic issue with your nerves and being in outstretched position just precipitated the symptoms.

So total work up and clinical evaluation is highly recommended.

I hope that answers your question.

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